I’m only planning to do this once. I am finally at the end of the road of all my doubts about my neurology. Yesterday I was given a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome by Dr Judith Gould of the Lorna Wing Centre. For those who don’t know, Dr Gould worked with Lorna Wing to develop the concept of autistic spectrum and is a lead expert in diagnosing autism in women and girls.
It was life affirming and delightful. Dr Gould is an incredible human being and I wish there could be endless multiple Judith Gould’s peopling schools and colleges and work places across the world, but she is of course unique. I feel extraordinarily lucky.
Many people have written about the moment of diagnosis, and so I feel I don’t need to. I don’t want to risk falling into cliches and make my own experience as flat as the screen I’m writing on. I want it to stay alive in my mind. The details of this encounter are private, though I wish to be public about my neurological status.
The point is that autism can be disguised or “masked” over a lifetime, as some autistic people learn to socialise and do it incredibly well. I’ve seen this termed “passing”, and the mechanisms by which we learn to do this are, in my experience, entirely unconscious. Frankly, up until most recently I had no idea that I was passing for a neurotypical person – I thought I was one.
I thought I was a neurotypcial person who was a lover and brilliant observer of people, but a bad friend because I’ve needed so much solitude and recovery time from social contact.
But I am not a bad friend, which is hugely relieving. I love my friends and am endlessly fascinated by people. Friends who’ve been disappointed over the years – if I’ve seemed distant or endlessly unavailable – this is why. It’s incredibly hard for me to stay connected, and those who’ve stuck with me are loved without measure – I know that more often than not you’ve had to keep things going.
And I would add that it is indeed possible to love people in so many ways, and to keep them in mind, as present as if they were with you, even when you haven’t seen one another for many years.
Now that I am formally diagnosed I will be working again to raise consciousness and acceptance for autism. It’s simply another way of being human. I have no idea what form this will take, probably just being me, fully and at long last.